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OU Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion hosts digital accessibility discussion in final presentation of webinar series

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Accessibility webinar flyer

Flyer for the July 29 webinar "Building Awareness on Campus: Exploring Accessibility."

The OU Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion hosted a webinar Wednesday evening featuring speakers from the Accessibility and Disability Resource Center to discuss digital accessibility.  

The PowerPoint presentation was given on Zoom Wednesday at 4 p.m. as part of the #WeAre Webinar Series hosted by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. 

During the hour-long webinar, ADRC Compliance Outreach Coordinator and Digital Accessibility Specialist Donna Lewis instructed attendees on how to make their digital resources more accessible to people who have any form of disability.

The webinar began with a brief introduction by Carrie McClain, assistant vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, in which she explained the decision to include this topic in the webinar series. 

“In this time of still dealing with (COVID-19), in still maybe having some times where we're navigating through our online spaces a little bit more than normal, and in a way for us to just be more helpful, more thoughtful, more understanding of other communities, we thought that this would be a great subject to cover and highlight for you all,” McClain said. 

Lewis began her presentation by explaining the importance of digital accessibility. According to Lewis, while the web is beneficial in the removal of barriers faced by those with physical disabilities, it presents new challenges that must be taken into consideration when creating content. 

Lewis said if content is not made accessible, it can put those with a disability at a further disadvantage when trying to utilize the content.

“We want to make sure that we are considering the whole spectrum of our audience, and we are designing for the entire group, so that we will be able to help them interact with what we're trying to communicate,” Lewis said. 

Lewis said when creating accessible content, it is important to take all forms of disabilities into consideration. 

“Anybody can become disabled, either temporarily or permanently,” Lewis said. “If I don't have my glasses, I'm not seeing a computer screen. … Can you type an email or interact with web pages effectively and efficiently if you've done something to your dominant hand? Maybe, maybe not. We need to build so that you'd be able to do this.”

Lewis said digital accessibility does not have to come at the cost of advanced features or creative design. According to Lewis, the ADRC is available to help make online content more accessible without losing these features. 

Lewis continued the presentation with the definition of digital accessibility. According to Lewis, digital accessibility describes the degree that people with disabilities are able to use software, resources, web pages and documents. 

Lewis described the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. According to Lewis, these guidelines were established by the World Wide Web Consortium to provide recommendations on how to make content more accessible.

Lewis continued the presentation by explaining the importance of inclusive design. Lewis said that accessible content should not be separate from the main content.

“We want to make sure that users who are not usually considered disabled are not excluded from some designs,” Lewis said. “We want to make sure that we are using solid design principles that are going to be usable for people with disabilities and without disabilities and without requiring them to go to a special page.” 

Lewis then listed the key features for digital accessibility including text description of images and how important information can’t be described by images alone. Lewis recommends including data tables that describe information presented in graphics.

Lewis also emphasized the importance of headings and document structure. Proper document structure allows screen readers to function more effectively. According to Lewis, defined data table layout is also important to screen reader functionality.

Lewis said it is important to provide adequate descriptions on forms, specifically in element labeling so screen readers can accurately provide a description of the document.

Understandable link names, media transcripts and captions, accessible non-HTML content, skippable repetitive elements and easy-to-read content are also important features of digital accessibility.

Lewis also briefly explained how to make Microsoft Word documents and PDF documents more accessible. However, because of time restrictions, she was unable to go into full detail.

According to McClain, this webinar was the last in the #WeAre series. McClain said content and contact information from the webinar will be made available to attendees.

Lewis said while digital accessibility may seem like a dry topic, it is something she is extremely passionate about. 

“We really do believe that everyone should be able to access information, regardless of whether they have a disability or not,” Lewis said. 

Emmy is a professional writing and modern dance senior, and a news reporter for The Daily.

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